Cathy Simms is a cancer survivor and campaigner for Macmillan. Here she explains why she is taking part in Go Sober for October and just why the Macmillan Cancer Support is so important to her.
Tell us about your cancer journey and your relationship with Macmillan Cancer Support in Wales
Macmillan are a very special charity to me. When I was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer in December 2012, Macmillan gave advice and support throughout my cancer journey including emotional support, advice on finances and particularly invaluable advice on cancer discrimination in the workplace and the law.
I was discriminated against by my previous employer because of my cancer. It was a very difficult, distressing, long court case where an international shopfitting company denied discrimination, and their solicitor and barrister insisted that I wasn’t disabled.
From the time I lodged this case I knew that there was a law that protected me against discrimination and always would in the future as I had cancer.
I won my case for discrimination and now have a discrimination judgement against this company…But the icing on the cake was when the judge summed up and addressed the barrister telling him that “he didn’t know the law” and that the law I had advised them all of did protect me and always would as I have had cancer.
Since my cancer and recovery I realise how lucky I am to have survived and have wanted to help raise funds for Macmillan to help others as I had been helped.
You actively campaign for greater understanding of cancer and discrimination in the workplace. But what made you decide to take part in Go Sober for October?
I have a demanding career as a self-employed retail designer and spend the majority of my time, often including weekends, either sat behind a computer screen or driving around the UK to visit shopfitting sites. As a result I don’t have time to exercise and have poor fitness levels.
Since my major surgery a few years ago I also find exercise difficult, so running, hiking, cycling, even walking great distances [to raise money for Macmillan] never seemed achievable.
I have always been a social drinker, enjoying nights out with friends, fine dining with a good wine and occasional drinking with my husband on the weekend in the evenings. However over the past couple of years this drinking has become more frequent and I have used alcohol regularly as a crutch to support me through the hardest times of my cancer and court case and subsequent money issues.
Although most of this is now behind me, when I have a particularly stressful day I relax in the evening with a large glass of wine, however these glasses became more frequent and I felt I was becoming reliant on alcohol that was affecting my health, particularly with a cancer prognosis, drinking so much was bad for my health and needed addressing.
How have the first two weeks of the challenge been going?
The first week was really difficult. I was so tired that I spent a lot of time sleeping when I could.
I had planned to also eat healthily in an attempt to lose weight but when the frequent cravings started I turned to sweet foods, devouring ice cream, chocolate and cakes, to deal with the cravings, that has worked but has not helping my weight loss goals!
I have had a couple of social occasions where I would normally have a drink; a trip to bingo with my friends when I drove and drank coke, a special Sunday lunch with my son when I enjoyed a delicious three-course lunch at the Celtic Manor and business trips where I have still enjoyed dining, but passed on the wine.
Do you think you will make the whole month or are you likely to buy a Golden Ticket to give yourself a night off?
I feel that a Golden Ticket would be cheating and need the whole month off. My friends and I have been invited to a wedding party next week and I will be the designated driver, where the passengers will all make donations. I have a steely determination that has helped me in my career and fighting my employers and am a very strong person, so once I put my mind to do something I will do it!
What do your friends and family think of the challenge?
My friends and family have all been very supportive as they know what I have been through fighting cancer and my employers and how Macmillan have helped me, so how important this fundraising is to me. They are also aware of how much I drink and that this is a very difficult challenge for me.
Are you feeling healthier for not drinking?
Yes. It took around 10 days to get the alcohol out of my system and am now starting to feel much better, with a clearer head and more energy.
Do you think taking part in Go Sober will permanently change your drinking habits?
Yes, I hope to just be a social drinker and on weekends in moderation, not every night as it had previously been.
For more information on Go Sober, or to sign up, visit the website.
You can sponsor Cathy here https://www.gosober.org.uk/users/cathy-simms
For information or support from Macmillan, call us free on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm) or visit www.macmillan.org.uk.